Sunday, October 12, 2008

Portable People Meters Proliferating

Over three years ago I read an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine about an evolutionary business change that Arbitron was making. Locally based Arbitron is in the business of rating and measuring the audiences of radio stations. For as long as I can remember, they accomplished this by getting randomly selected listeners to fill out a diary of their daily radio listening habits. Back in April of 2005, the magazine story told of new device the company had developed called the portable people meter (ppm) which would eventually replace the diaries. The ppm is worn by survey participants during the day and plugged into a cradle at night. It automatically picks up inaudible signals sent out by radio stations wherever the survey participant goes. Needless to say it greatly enhances the value of the information as it is no longer relying on someone’s memory at the end of the day.

As with any evolutionary technology, the Arbitron ppm has generated some controversy. This past Saturday, Paul Fahri wrote in The Washington Post that “African American and Latino listeners have raised questions about the new systems accuracy”

“Attorneys general in New York and New Jersey filed suits to stop Arbitron from making its people-meter data available to stations and advertisers in the New York area, which is the nation's largest radio market. Later yesterday, Arbitron responded by filing countersuits against the attorneys general to prevent them from blocking the data; the company denied the attorneys general's allegations that its electronic system is "fraudulent."”

You can find the full text of that article here.

It’s never easy being an evolutionary. The ppm was developed in Columbia.